There Will be Blood

There Will be Blood is an epic film released in 2007 that gives a close look at a truly hateful opportunist. Having said that, believe it or not, it’s wonderful.

There Will be Blood is an epic film released in 2007 that gives a close look at a truly hateful opportunist. Having said that, believe it or not, it’s wonderful. It’s directed by Paul Thomas Anderson known for Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, and the Master. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, and Ciarán Hinds.

IMDB says it’s “A story about family, greed, religion, and oil, centered around a turn-of-the-century prospector in the early days of the business.” The protagonist’s name is Daniel Plainview. He is a shrewd and relentless oil prospector who almost dies a couple times before he strikes black gold and untold fortune. There is hardly any blood in this movie so don’t let the title steer you wrong. It takes place around 1900 but there are scenes before and considerably longer after that.

Plainview is one of those characters you detest with all that is human but at the same time you can’t take your eyes off his journey. This film treats us to the life of one man. I can see parts of myself in him and at the same time, I see a heart as black as midnight I would never compare to my own. We learn early on he hates people. That should be a clue about what’s to come. The ending is horrendous and somewhat unpredictable. I imagine a lot of people hated the ending. As for me? I can’t really see a better way to complete Plainview’s story. The question lingers for me: is Daniel Plainview’s money worth the human cost? While great in my view, it lost points by not having much real humanity portrayed. One example is, there are hardly any women in it. It could have been stronger if it showed more ordinary life. That would have served to contrast and showcase Plainview’s twisted madness. As it is, that is all we see. It could be better, but it’s great as it is.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises was a failure in my opinion, even in spite of its awesome motorcycle, due to boring and pointless scenes and under-developed characters.

The Dark Knight Rises was a failure in my opinion, even in spite of its awesome motorcycle, due to boring and pointless scenes and under-developed characters. Excessively long and pointless scenes follow an initial airplane hijacking that is admittedly one of the few innovative and exciting scenes. Unfortunately however, the boring stuff begins immediately after that and really never stops throughout the course of its seemingly unending 2hr 44min runtime. I think a lot of these boring scenes are due to the fact that the director didn’t try as hard because it’s part of such a successful franchise. Once a franchise is famous like the Dark Knight, movie makers boosted my McDonalds Value Meal Deals, action figures, and clothing lines likely lose their inner conscience about just making a good movie. They think whatever they do under that banner will be accepted and will make money. It appears that is the situation in this case, which is unfortunate. I think movie makers should always strive to make a movie interesting and engaging, regardless of the coattails of its predecessor. I found The Dark Knight Rises to be uninspired and completely off the mark of the 2 other prequels.

Under-developed motives for Bruce Wayne also left me cold on this one. There is little or no chemistry or motive in his love relationship with cat woman. In fact, cat woman nearly kills him a couple of times. His response to this is to fall in love with her and make her his partner? Bruce Wayne’s fortune is another bone of contention with me. He has lost every cent at the hands of his enemy and yet he has the means to appear healthy and relaxed drinking coffee and winking at Alfred at the end of the movie. What money bought the latte Bruce? We are in this scene as well as so many others expected to suspend disbelief. I have to say I grew tired of that mental exercise after the first hour. Besides that, the return wasn’t much to speak of.

Based on my negative impression of this film, I am not planning on seeing the next sequel which clearly will contain a Robin figure. That’s right, believe it or not, I am still not interested.

47 Meters Down (2017)

This film is on the harder edge of these sorts of films but without the gore. It definitely drops you several times from the highest stories of scare.

Now streaming on Netflix! This is a spoiler free preview. We may have one of the scarier, thinking-person’s shark films here. Its minimal presentation but only works to make you sit up straight amidst the terror.

47 Meters Down (2017)
PG-13 | 1h 29min | Horror, Thriller | 16 June 2017 (USA)
Director: Johannes Roberts
Writers: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Stars: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine

The director’s name I hadn’t heard until I looked him up as is conventional with me. He directed The Other Side of the Door, along with several other large release films that are impressive in number though he hasn’t had what I’d call a “hit” yet. Still, so many directors never get this many chances to make movies. I am impressed with his resume. He might be worth checking out as far as his other work. I’ll let you know as I intend to look at some of them in future reviews.

Like the film I mentioned, this could be classified as horror. His past work in the genre certainly would make him able to create suspense and jump scares. At the same time, shark movies like Jaws or The Shallows march to different drummers and therefore need extra skill to be made well.

I was overall impressed with the direction here. I’ll be curious to read what other critics say. There are many choices he made that work and just a few that I question, mostly the ones about what is happening 47 meters “up.” He chose to keep that minimal, maybe a bit too much.

Mandy Moore’s days in PG and R movies may have passed. I think she does great in Tangled and I am sure her name sells tickets. I love her in This is Us. Still, she has a shrill scream of a weak woman in my opinion. It irritated instead of terrified. Put her up against Blake Lively in a shark film and I’ll choose Lively hand over shark. Still, she is a familiar face and voice when she’s calm and we keep wanting her to be strong. Again, you may disagree about her performance. I thought she was miscast. So much of casting these days is done by demographic and in order to keep a movie in the black. I’ll save that for another post but it is VERY VERY sad that’s the situation we are in. Hundreds of other actresses of her paygrade could have done it better imo. She is still great to watch, I may be splitting hairs.

Claire Holt is the other young woman. She was well cast and more fun. I had to do a double take because she looked a bit like Alicia Vikander with more freckles and a tan. Both the women in this film are attractive, which I am somewhat ashamed to say … always helps.

This is not as good as Jaws but certainly has scares as you would expect. To sum it up: 2 attractive young women, with sharks, and the ocean is blue … what more could you want for a Summer escape? There is also a very clever ending I’d love to talk about with you. If you have a desire to do so, please start a conversation with me in the comments about the ending! I allow spoilers there.

7/10

Magic Mike

Magic Mike is a film about Mike (Channing Tatum), a male stripper, and entrepreneur who takes a new younger stripper under his wing and teaches him the ropes. They have adventures that take them through waking up in vomit and meeting hot women with whom they take drugs with and sleep with. Mike wants to start a small business making furniture but the banks won’t lend to him because he had bad credit and a $13,000 stack of ones and fives. We are to assume these are his tips from stripping. Mike goes through a transformation in the course of the movie. Along the way, in between very predictable drama, there is actual stripping. We don’t see any penises but there are butts in thongs galore to keep the drunk women and gay men (I’m not saying all gay men will like the stripping), who go for that sort of thing, stimulated.

I was surprised that almost half this movie was not stripping. The commercials promoted it as a raunchy comedy for people who enjoy male stripping. My wife had planned to go see it with her girl friends but when they never went, I offered to take her since she seemed eager to check it out. It does have a dark story with bubble gum ending that at times is reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever. The characters are all flat and undeveloped and the stripping scenes are no more racy than what you’d see on a CSI episode.

In conclusion, I liked the way the producer and director attempted to give this film a story instead of just showing stripping for 2 hours. Unfortunately the story they gave us is unbelievable, slow, and most of all uninteresting. For that reason, I think this movie has very few people it will appeal to. It just wasn’t funny enough. By sheer demographics, it may not even break even on its budget. If it does do well, I’ll strip on Youtube for you. Here’s hoping it doesn’t!

They’re Watching (2016)

They’re Watching (2016)
1h 35min | Comedy, Horror, Thriller | 25 March 2016 (USA)

The renovation of an old house in a village somewhere in Eastern Europe will bring the crew of an American home improvement television show up against superstitions, misunderstandings, and bloody violence.
Directors: Jay Lender, Micah Wright
Writers: Micah Wright, Jay Lender
Stars: Mia Marcon, Kris Lemche, David Alpay

I think the found footage genre became hugely popular with the kids born from 1980 and after. I know most my friends my age don’t enjoy. I’m from 1969. I mention this because I just found out bot the directors were born the same year as me. That was pretty cool to se. That, and that one of them is hugely successful having worked on Spongebob Squarepants and yet doesn’t seem to work out (just as I don’t). I feel such a kinship here. That’s why I’m surprised these two show the love for the found footage genre in their film so god damned much! It is indeed off-putting. Imagine expecting a horror with some comedy based on what you read on IMDB only to find a film that resembles a mock tv reality show. I swore I was watching Joe Schmo several times. By the way, if you haven’t seen the mock reality show Joe Schmo, you’re missing out, go take care of that right away.

In this case however, the actors just aren’t that good and the script is way below them, if you take my exaggeration. I got the idea I was being duped by a very low budget, not-well-thought-out B movie by about 30 minutes in. Something did eat at me to see the ending though and I’m glad about that. While the journey is long and laborious, the ending might be considered a masterpiece by some film reviewers and movie nerds. You can count me in with those. Nonetheless, it’s grandiose surprise entrance at the end really doesn’t justify the hour and half I had to sit through to get there. I don’t get it. Thee guys are not first-timers. How could they create such a thing?

The premise is that an American home improvement show goes visiting an old house in an old place in a far-off place somewhere in Eastern Europe. It’s a place that feels like stepping back into the scenes of Dracula’s castle. It gets stupid with drinking and partying my the crew for a long time. There are predictable allusions to what will happen next, I was right about every one. I’m sure you would be too. They are somehow connected with a woman the town is superstitious about and pretty soon it all starts to loo and feel like the Blair Witch Project. ‘Nuff said.

Final thoughts
Found footage is a mixed bag. It either works to build a plot and suspense or it falls on its face looking trendy and contrived. I would not say it doesn’t work here but the acting is so staged it feels like it fails. It’s almost like these actors are so desperate for work they will give you their all. It was a fun diversion but I wouldn’t let it take the place on your watchlist that could be reserved for better films. It’s not that great a film but I did enjoy the conclusion. I think 98% of the budget might have been spent to make the ending. It must have been a blast to film. If anything sounds interesting, it does have some novel comedy value. No horror though.

6/10

The Human Centipede

Very disgusting descriptions lie ahead. This is not my typical movie post folks. Words and concepts are intended for a 21+ reading audience only. You’ve been warned.

poster art
A lot has been said about this film so I won’t do any detailed summaries or plot criticism. It is decidedly GROSS but I feel there’s something going on in this vile movie that people aren’t talking about. It has to do with taboos and social mores. It’s sort of an interesting take. In a way, there is an intellectual undertone if you look for it. Before you read any further, I’d caution you that this is the most disgusting film I have ever viewed and most definitely NOT for children. I’m writing about it because it is unique and has made a definite impact on the horror movie genre.

In this movie, a mad retired surgeon sews three people together mouth to anus. The people are asleep during the first movie and they awaken to their horrific state with no detail of their “surgery” except minimal things allowing the viewer to imagine the horror. In the second film, the “centipede” is made again this time with 12 people. They are beaten over the head with a crow bar before they are connected in this unspeakable manner. There is a scene in the first film where the front man defecates into the mouth of a woman sewn to his anus. It is probably the single most sick idea for a scene I’ve scene. The movie is without a doubt the most gross film for me. I had my reasons for seeing these films. I wanted to see if they were as bad as everyone said and some reviews I read said there was a humor and an intellectual air to them that many miss. I wanted to see if that was true. Was it as bad as everyone said? Yes.

Was there some intellectual cultic feel to it that the critics were missing? Maybe. It feels like something is being said as you watch it, something that transcends the gore and horrific subject matter. I think it’s about what true insanity is and how much we really don’t want to get close to others. If you set out to make a film that crosses all boundaries, your audience will go there with you (if you have one.) In this case, director Tom Six has a fairly solid fan base who love this movie. For that reason, they are expecting gore and gruesomeness to the extreme and that is what they get. The first movie is not completely gory. It is more the imagination that he works with. a stitched flap of skin from the buttocks of one to the cheek all the way up to the ear of another leaves the mind cold. The second film on the other hand is balls out disgusting. I have already said a lot of uncharacteristically gross things in this post. I will not summarize or detail what happens in the second one. Just know that it “gives the people what they want,” the people being the fans of the first movie. I actually enjoyed watching these two movies. I know movies are fake and it was fun to see what would happen next. The first is like Halloween or any great horror movie. The second reminded me of a late night new wave show I used to watch in the 80’s called Night Flight. Of course, that with TONS more blood and guts. People talk about these movies as if they are so offensive, they are really not that bad when you recall he probably wrote the with a bottle of booze imagining the host hideous stuff he could come up with. What’s your take on these? Will you see them? Have you seen them? I guess #3 is out now but not yet on DVD. I will probably see it.

Secretary

This movie bears indictable resemblance to “Fifty Shades of Grey” but is more than just a tale of BDSM sexual encounters. I gave it a 4.5/5 because I think the director succeeded in showing the power we can hold over our significant others.

The movie Secretary (2002 Rated R) seeks to portray sexual control in a relationship. This is probably a really hard thing to do straight out so the movie makes a sort of comic book story to get its point across.

The result is a jarring, strangely erotic tale of control between a cutter and a BDSM dominant. Though the writing and sets are comic-book like, this is definitely not one to show the kids. This film, replete with nudity and graphic themes like cutting, can be viewed however as a close look at how lovers can control each other in relationships. Not everything here is meant to be sexual.

This film was directed by Steven Shainberg and stars Maggie Gyllenthal and James Spader and the couple it centers on. While the director is not known for a slough of films, the actors are well known for many movies. Both deliver passionate performances. There is nudity and once again, this is not a film for kids. It is however well acted and the writing is bizarre yet enjoyable. None of this is anything I do but it helps me get what this sort of stuff is about. I found that interesting.

Here is the storyline from IMDB:

Lee Holloway is a smart, quirky woman in her twenties who returns to her hometown in Florida after a brief stay in a mental hospital. In search of relief from herself and her oppressive childhood environment, she starts to date a nerdy friend from high school and takes a job as a secretary in a local law firm, soon developing an obsessive crush on her older boss, Mr. Grey. Through their increasingly bizarre relationship, Lee follows her deepest longings to the heights of masochism and finally to a place of self-affirmation.

This movie bears indictable resemblance to “Fifty Shades of Grey” but is more than just a tale of BDSM sexual encounters. I gave it a 4.5/5 because I think the director succeeded in showing the power we can hold over our significant others. It lost points with me in the way that it wasn’t a more realistic portrayal. We are obviously not all like Mr. Grey and few like Mr. Grey will find requited love. Still, we do hold each other captive sometimes and it’s interesting to think about how we do that while watching this movie.

The Snowtown Murders

Though many will interpret this movie as macabre horror, it doesn’t attempt to be that. Instead it strives to be an endurance test in tense human relationships and murder. In the final analysis it’s a study about bigotry in poverty left unchallenged.

Racists exist. We as a society learned this best through daytime talk shows all through the 90’s. I recall more than a few toothless pontificators.

Those are the entertaining kind, the scariest ones operate covertly in families. And then there are those who are neither covert nor entertaining, those whom are pure evil. John is such a man. Though many will interpret this movie as macabre horror, it doesn’t attempt to be that. Instead it strives to be an endurance test in tense human relationships and murder. In the final analysis it’s a study about bigotry in poverty left unchallenged. The real John is serving 11 consecutive life sentences for torture and murder. Young men need role models. Without them, they are susceptible to the Johns out there.

This film was directed by Justin Kurzel, it was his directorial debut. The lead role of serial killer John Bunting is played by relative newcomer Daniel Henshall. Daniel’s performance in this film has already won him multiple awards. I add my praise to that, he does an excellent job at being scary and believable. The scariest part about him is that he could be the neighbor helping you take in your groceries.

This film is based on a true story of a serial killer. A summary of the film is as follows: Jamie looks up to his mother Elizabeth’s new boyfriend John. They live in an Australian form of welfare housing in an under-decorated environment. There are sweet family moments depicting a happy family. Jamie’s 2 younger siblings run around and play like any normal kids their age. What is not normal is the judgmental, bigotry that John espouses. Early on the family clings to his stability. In a world that seems to care so little, John is their stability. Most the movie is a study of Jamie and John’s relationship. Jamie learns to trust and respect John even up to the point of killing with him. More than a macabre horror tale, which it decidedly is, the film shows the environment in which a real serial killer survived and thrived.

The acting and sets are superb. I was on the edge of my seat the whole 2 hours. While there isn’t a ton of gratuitous violence, there is some truly hideous stuff here. It will not appeal to a wide audience because of this. The killer is not glorified but clearly the director seeks to show how a serial killer can grow and thrive in a disenfranchised, impoverished social strata. I liked the character development but would have preferred more tender moments between the characters. It was as if everyone was tortured 24/7. Does respect really grow out of that? It seemed to me Jamie would have gone to the police early on if his life were that miserable. There is nothing to like in John and what we can like in Jamie is neutralized early on when they start killing. If you watch the Snowtown Murders you will find it obtusely disturbing as I did. Well, at least I hope you will.

Argo

Argo is the story of how a CIA team rescued hostages from Iran. It is based on true events. The horrors of 1979 Iran contrast with making a fake movie but the result is only partly comical.

The film Argo is the story of how a CIA team rescued hostages from Iran. It is based on true events. In this film, the horrors of 1979 Iran contrast with the humor of making a fake movie making it both serious and comic.

Argo is directed by Ben Affleck, known for the Town and a host of other movies. It has a star cast that includes: Bryan Cranston as Jack ODonnell, Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel, and John Goodman as John Chambers. At time of this review, it is the number one movie at the box office. It tells the suspenseful story of how our government saved hostages from Iran under the guise of scouting a movie location.

The basic story is as follows: The American embassy in Iran was invaded in 1979 by Iranian revolutionaries. It was a bloodbath. Six Ambassadors escaped to the home of the Canadian Ambassador. The CIA is charged with the impossible job of extracting them from the country. Tony Mendez comes up with a highly unsupported plan to smuggle them out posing as a movie team. Enlisting the help of a real Hollywood script and professional movie experts, Mendez launches the rescue operation.

One aspect that makes Argo great is its character development. So many movies I have seen recently have flat characters so Argo is a breath of fresh air. It does start out a bit slow but once it begins the suspense is like a building drumbeat that delivers in excitement and thrills. Some of the best parts are the vintage television footage and photographs interwoven throughout. With Iran in the news lately as well as the Presidential debates, this movie adds dimension to a largely forgotten part of the world. I can understand why we may want to forget. It is a gripping sketch of what was going on at that time. It reminds me of what it is to be human and what is so human about American movies. One more thing, the movie is exciting but never as real as when Jimmy Carter himself gives commentary just before the credits roll. I wonder what the current Iranians will make of this. It was classified until President Clinton’s administration declassified it.

Here Comes the Boom

There is now another “root for the underdog” fighting film to add to the movie archives. It’s also another try at a “feel good education” film. The Kevin James movie I’m referring to Here Comes the Boom was directed by Frank Coraci, known for other Happy Madison movies like Click and Zookeeper. It’s received a slough of low ratings due to its failed jokes and recycled conventions. Those are valid criticisms but it’s redeemed by its Rocky spirit and good message for teachers to inspire their students. It is decidedly not a Stand and Deliver or Lean on Me … but it does promote inspiration which makes it worth seeing.

IMDB summarizes the film as follows: A high school biology teacher looks to become a successful mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities from being axed at his cash-strapped school.

As a public school teacher I found many flaws in the way the teacher interacts with the Principal as well as his colleagues. In fact, I criticized most of the way he is portrayed early on. Nonetheless, when he started his UFC fighting, I forgot about all that and enjoyed the ride. I only wish it could have began sooner.

Listen, Kevin James is a smart actor. His King of Queens show is up there with Seinfeld in reruns and syndication. I love it. At this point his career, he wouldn’t willingly release a dud. Even though most the reviewers treat it as such, Here Comes the Boom is quality entertainment with a top notch tip for all teachers.

In the final scenes of the movie, the true purpose of education is revealed: to inspire. There are no standardized test scores reported but we feel inspiration that spreads throughout the student body. It may not portray what’s real about schools today but it reminds us of what teachers should do for their students. For the fight scenes and the inspiring message, it scored stars with me. Unfortunately, the lack of good jokes, a slow beginning, and unrealistic portrayal of a teacher caused it to lose points.